Monthly Archives: October 2020

Preparing for the First Freeze: Practical Tips to Do at Home

Fall is officially here. With the temperature dropping, this is the perfect time to prepare your home for winter. Even if you live in an area that barely gets snow, it’s important to weatherize your home. The winter cold can cause all sorts of damage to your house, and your energy bills are likely to double if you’re not prepared.

Get your winterizing done before the temperature drops any lower. It’s not fun to do these chores when it’s already freezing outside. This checklist will help you winterize your house to make sure you’ve got everything covered before the cold sets in.

Insulation

Proper insulation is an essential element of weatherization that can improve your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. Serious insulation upgrades are reserved for the warmer months since your house needs to be carefully evaluated for heat resistance first. Some insulation contractors offer energy evaluations to determine areas in your home that aren’t adequately insulated.

In the meantime, these are some things you can do to make sure that your insulation is ready for winter:

man putting insulation in the ceiling

Check Your Attic Insulation

The attic is one of the biggest sources of energy loss in homes due to the phenomenon called the “stack effect.” Warm air tends to rise, and it can leak through your roof if your attic isn’t insulated well. The stack effect forces your heating system to work twice as hard to keep your house at your preferred indoor temperature.

Make sure your attic is solidly insulated, leaving no room for air leaks. Loose-fill insulation is the best insulation for attics. The material conforms to any space and shape without disturbing the finishes of the walls and ceilings.

Insulate Your Water Heater

The Department of Energy (DOE) recommends insulating older water heaters with insulating blankets. It can cut your standby heat losses by 25 to 45 percent, saving you 7 to 16 percent on your annual water heating costs.

For electric water heaters, you can also put an insulation board underneath the tank. It helps prevent heat loss into the floor, saving you four to nine percent of water heating energy.

Most new hot water tanks are already insulated, so you can skip this step if you’ve recently upgraded your heater.

Seal Unused Fireplaces

Wood-burning fireplaces and chimneys can be major sources of air leaks and drafts during the winter. Even if the damper is closed, the flue can still let cold air into the house. So, it’s better to seal it instead to block the air leaks.

You can purchase a chimney balloon or chimney pillow to seal your fireplace. Another option is to cut out a piece of insulating foam board seal and place it just under the damper. To ensure that the board cut-out is snug, you first want to measure each side of the opening and draw the cardboard pattern.

Remember to remove the seal before using the fireplace to prevent accidents.

Heating System

Other than your insulation, your heating system is another critical element in winterizing your home. Check your furnace and other heating appliances no later than the end of October to give you ample time to inspect and address any problems. Give your heating system a test run to make sure everything’s operating as it should.

  • Schedule seasonal maintenance Have your heating system checked and serviced by a heating contractor to keep it in tip-top shape all year. They’ll let you know if any component needs a replacement or repairs. This is also an excellent time to inspect your air ducts and ensure that they’re not clogged.
  • Replace the air filter It’s good practice changing your air filter every season, especially if you’re using the 1- to 2-inch kind. A new, clean filter will ensure the flow of quality indoor air inside your house. Each furnace has different requirements for filters, so make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Test your furnace and thermostat Test the thermostat by turning it to heat mode and setting it to 80 degrees. The furnace should turn on within a few minutes and you should feel warm air beginning to blow. If the furnace takes too long to run or there’s any other problem, you can try to diagnose it yourself. You may also call a qualified service technician to be sure.
  • Check for carbon monoxide leaks Most furnaces are gas-burning and produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide leaks are typically a result of leakages in the furnace’s exhaust system or other fuel-burning appliances. Carbon monoxide is dangerous when inhaled, causing damage to vital organs like the heart and lungs. Luckily, you can easily detect leaks using a battery-operated alarm or detector badge.

Water Pipes

Plumbing is susceptible to freezing or bursting because metal pipes are good thermal conductors. Frozen pipes interfere with the water flow, making it difficult to do everyday tasks. In addition, pipes that burst due to freezing can lead to expensive repairs. Prevent these problems by insulating your plumbing.

  • Insulate exposed pipes Inspect your home for any exposed water or drainpipes, especially those in uninsulated places. Don’t forget to check your attic, crawlspace, basement, and outside walls. Wrap the exposed pipes with electrical heating tape followed by foam insulating sleeves.
  • Insulate exterior faucets Shut off the water supply for your exterior faucets, then drain the water from them. Otherwise, the water that remains inside the pipes can freeze and burst. Disconnect your garden hoses from the taps and drain them as well before storing them properly. You may also put an insulated cover on the faucet for added frost protection.

If you’re going away for the winter, remember to drain your home’s plumbing system and shut off the water supply. Otherwise, a leak could happen while you’re away. You wouldn’t be able to address it immediately, and the damage can be disastrous.

water pipes

Roof and Gutters

The roof and gutter system are also essential areas when winterizing your house. Any neglected damage on the roof can cause water or air leaks. Clogged gutters can increase the chances of forming ice dams, which are a damaging winter roofing problem.

  • Inspect the roof for damaged or missing shingles and have them replaced.
  • Check the chimney flashing for damage since it’s a common source of leaks. If the caulking has seen better days, that means it’s time to renew the flashing seals.
  • Clean out your gutters and downspouts. Wet leaves and debris can increase the chances of ice dams. They also add a lot of weight to the gutters, which increases the risk of damage.
  • Consider replacing your gutters if they’re old. Go for seamless gutters. These are less likely to leak than traditional sectional gutters.

If you have a flat roof surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, blow off all the leaves and debris that can hold moisture. However, don’t sweep away the pebbles. They shield the asphalt from direct sunlight.

Doors and Windows

The caulking around doors and windows wears out over time. It creates gaps and holes that let drafts into the house, decreasing your heating system’s efficiency. A simple remedy is weatherstripping, which seals the gaps around doors and windows. The DOE says that sealing air leaks can save you at least 20 percent on heating and cooling expenses.

  • Inspect the outside molding on doors and windows for missing or damaged caulking. Use exterior-grade caulk to seal any gaps you find.
  • Check the weatherstripping around the doors, especially on the bottom. Replace if necessary.
  • Do the incense stick method to check for air leaks. On a windy day, hover a lighted incense stick near the sides of your closed windows and doors. If the smoke trail moves, it means you have an air leak. Use rope caulking to reseal the gaps.
  • Inspect the locking mechanisms on your windows. Make sure they move smoothly. Otherwise, they may be difficult to operate once the cold sets in.
  • Clean the window tracks to ensure that the windows slide smoothly.
  • Re-glaze older windows with cracked or missing glazing putty.

Landscape, Garden, and Outdoor Amenities

Your yard also needs to be prepped for winter, especially if you’re maintaining a flower bed or vegetable garden. Follow these standard lawn winterizing procedures to make sure your yard is ready to grow again come spring.

  • Harvest your final batch of fruits and vegetables. Remove all old plant matter to prevent plant diseases in the next growing season.
  • Plant a cover crop for large garden beds to protect the topsoil from the cold temperature. If you have small beds, applying mulch would be enough.
  • Stop watering your trees and shrubs in the early fall to winterize them. It causes them to prepare for fall and stops the growth of new leaves that won’t be hardy enough to survive winter. Once the leaves dropped and before the ground freezes, water your trees and shrubs deeply to give them one last soak before the temperature drops.
  • Winterize your sprinkler system by shutting off the water and draining the pipes. You can do this yourself or have a lawn service handle it.
  • Reseal your wooden deck to make it more resistant to winter damage.
  • Drain the gas from your lawn mower before storing it in a safe, dry area.
  • Cover or store your patio furniture.

This long list of chores may seem like too much work, but they’re worth doing if it means protecting your house from winter damage. Take the time to winterize your home to ensure that everything is in working order when spring comes again.

Home Insulation for Winter

A+ Insulation is a trusted insulation expert in Kansas City. We use premium tools and materials when examining your home’s insulating capacity to develop the best solutions to make it more energy-efficient. We offer a range of insulation solutions for your entire house to protect every room from heat and energy loss.

Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation home energy assessment.

Reasons to Add Spray Foam Insulation in Your Kitchen

When people speak of fixing up kitchens, they usually mean doing work on the cabinetry, changing the wallpaper or wall paint, updating the counters, adding an island, and so forth. Few associate insulation with kitchens, which is ironic because insulating a kitchen can be highly beneficial for residents.

Why Kitchens Need Insulation

Let’s review the common areas in a house that needs insulation:

  • Attic roof, walls, and floor
  • Behind knee walls
  • Ceilings with unheated spaces
  • Floors with vented crawlspaces beneath
  • Gaps between interior walls

These are the specific spots that make up a house’s thermal envelope which is essentially the shield that separates the indoor living spaces from the outdoors. For a house to stay cool in summer and warm in winter, the thermal envelope must be sealed completely without a hint of a draft.

Kitchens situated at the heart of a house technically don’t need insulation. Still, there could be exceptions, depending on the design of the rest of the house (i.e., the kitchen is right next to the sleeping quarters or above the basement). If the kitchen has one or more external walls, however, proper insulation is a must.

Apart from when it is part of a house’s thermal envelope, a kitchen needs insulation because it helps fortify this specific area of the house and addresses the following needs:

  1. Soundproofing
  2. Mold and bacteria prevention
  3. Pest prevention
  4. Thorough thermal sealing
  5. Structural support

Our Recommendation

At A+ Insulation, we recommend a specific type of insulating material for kitchens: closed-cell, polyurethane spray foam. This is the most commonly-used spray foam insulation in Kansas City and everywhere else. It has a high R-value, which is the metric for measuring heat flow resistance and insulation. When used on strategic areas of a house, closed-cell spray foam can raise the indoor comfort level, from temperature to acoustics, to greater heights.

We’re confident about this recommendation because, as an established insulation company in Kansas City, ; we’ve seen first-hand how well this insulation settles and cures inside walls, ceilings, and crawlspaces. The extra rigidity also helps reinforce the structural integrity of a closed-cell, foam-insulated house.

Closed-cell foam insulation also possesses other qualities that make it the perfect choice for insulating kitchens. Let’s take a closer look at how this type of polyurethane insulation addresses the needs listed above.

Soundproofing

spray foam insulation

The kitchen is hardly the noisiest part of the house (that honor is usually awarded to the rooms where there are entertainment consoles), but once the pots and pans get busy, the racket could disturb the rest of the household. This is especially true when bedrooms are located inconveniently next to or near the kitchen.

Spray foam insulation will do an excellent job of soundproofing a kitchen. While open-cell spray foam is the one that’s more often used to soundproof theater rooms because it absorbs sound better, closed-cell spray foam can give a more or less similar soundproofing output. Closed-cell foam is more impermeable after curing, so it becomes a good sound isolator.

Why can’t you use open-cell spray foam, then, if it is the superior acoustic absorber? You actually can; however, there are other factors that we need to consider besides soundproofing. When those enter the picture, you’ll understand why closed-cell spray foam insulation is the better option for your kitchen. The next section is a perfect example of these factors that you may want to prioritize over acoustics.

Waterproofing with Mold and Bacterial Prevention

Next to the bathroom, the kitchen is the one room in the house constantly exposed to moisture in the air and on the floor. The steam that comes from all the daily cooking, plus the condensation that takes place when the weather turns cold, can seep through the wooden walls and keep them moist for long periods. The moisture retention can also get worse if the kitchen is poorly insulated, to begin with.

Spray foam insulation offers a layer of protection against moisture intrusion. It’s a helpful feature to maintain in rooms with high humidity, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Where there’s perpetual moisture at home, mold and bacteria can thrive. This is the key concern (along with the premature onset of structural decay) that spray foam insulation addresses in kitchens. By putting a protective layer against moisture inside the wall cavities and stabilizing a room’s temperature, homeowners can prevent mold and bacteria from growing indoors and putting the residents’ health at risk.

Pest Prevention

As briefly mentioned above, closed-cell spray foam turns rigid when it cures. Assuming that it was installed superbly by an experienced company, the rigid, thermal envelope the insulation forms can help keep pests from getting inside and invading the house.

Additionally, building codes state that foam insulation in residential and commercial structures must be supplemented with an ignition barrier. Like most organic house construction materials, spray foam is combustible when exposed directly to flames. To reduce fire hazards in a foam-insulated home, Energy Vanguard recommends that builders must insert ignition barriers like:

  • Drywall
  • Hardboard
  • Mineral fiber insulation
  • Particleboard
  • Steel
  • Wood

These barriers add layers of protection against burrowing pests like rodents and beetles. Of course, wood and insulation are not entirely impenetrable. If given a point of entry, termites, carpenter ants, even squirrels can chew through spray foam insulation and nest within the walls. It’s, therefore, crucial to have a seamless installation that seals off the entire thermal envelope.

Thorough Thermal Sealing

Now that we’re on the subject of thermal envelopes, let’s discuss the insulation quality of closed-cell spray foam insulation. It is denser than open-cell foam, which means it takes skills and experience to ensure that it gets into every nook and cranny of the thermal envelope. This is a concern for your insulation contractor, though. If you hire a competent team like A+ Insulation, proper installation of closed-cell spray foam won’t ever become an issue.

It’s crucial to air-seal the building envelope because you want to keep warm air locked in during winter and kept out during summer. Air leaks through the envelope make your heater or air conditioning work extra hard and consume more electricity, thereby wasting energy and increasing your utility costs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), effective air sealing and insulation can save a household up to 15% on cooling and heating costs (with an average of 11% total cost savings for energy expenses).

A well-sealed and insulated building envelope also regulates the indoor temperature of a home, improves humidity control, reduces noise pollution and air pollution, prevents insect and pest infiltration — all of which contribute to making a home more comfortable and safe to live in.

Structural support

modern kitchen

Closed-cell spray foam insulation has a very high density compared to open-cell foam. It has something to do with the structure that forms after it cures: open-cell foam is like a sponge, while closed-cell foam is like Styrofoam. The usual narrative is that closed-cell foam adds to a house’s structural integrity because of its rigidity. While this may certainly be a factor that benefits a building, spray foam shouldn’t be used as a remedy for a weak structure. Nor should it be an alternative for proper wall and roofing reinforcements like masonry, wall anchors, and steel bar reinforcements.

When the polyurethane cures, the closed-cell foam insulation becomes a rigid, foam plastic that is highly adhesive. It bonds tightly to the adjacent substrates and holds them together (e.g., drywall). It is so adhesive that it can keep roofs intact and attached to a house despite high winds threatening to rip them off. In a Factory Mutual wind uplift pull test cited by America’s Plastic Makers, roofing insulated with spray foam resisted up to 990 psf (47.4 kPa) of wind pressure with a tensile strength of 25 psi (172.4 kPa).

Essentially, the spray foam held the structure together. This is likely the more accurate depiction of how closed-cell foam insulation contributes to a house’s structural integrity.

Other Locations in the Kitchen to Focus When Insulating

To fully enjoy the benefits of spray foam insulation, the thermal envelope has to be filled, and air-sealing must be guaranteed. Unfortunately, even open-cell spray foam, which is known for its expanding quality, can’t always get into the tiniest of spaces. Besides, other areas need insulation, too, in addition to the walls and ceilings.

Below are the other spots in a kitchen that may need follow-up insulation and air-sealing:

  • Crevices behind the window and door trims
  • Floor areas with a crawlspace or basement below
  • Wiring holes on external walls
  • Basement rim joists
  • Open soffits that are adjacent to the kitchen
  • Plumbing and HVAC vents

Choose the Company that Installs Top-Notch Spray Foam Insulation in Kansas City

The kitchen is arguably the most dynamic room in your house. Everyone will no doubt enjoy any improvement in this room. You can start by insulating your kitchen properly and thoroughly.

You can trust A+ Insulation for this job. We’ve been in business since 2004, offering the best experience possible to our customers in Kansas and Missouri.

We offer a FREE, no-obligation inspection and estimate. Contact us to learn more about our spray foam insulation products and services.